Xplosion Technology Spotlight

Fall 2018 Dallas EMBC Pitch Winner

 

Pitch Link: https://vimeo.com/310152251/f8281dec05

 

Company Bio: Xplosion provides wearable sensors coupled with The Homer Technique™ to provide training staff comprehensive reports about athletes’ susceptibility to injury. With this information we can characterize the body, set expectations for it, and determine what is needed to finish strong.

 

 

Xplosion Tech was created by Kehlin Swain after his experience as a division one college baseball athlete. Unfortunately, Kehlin suffered a serious ankle injury that impeded his performance. Before the injury he was one of the top players on the team. Moving forward he was never able to fully recover back to his old self. He began to research possibilities of how he could recover, especially through rehab. Through his research, Kehlin was able to connect with some professors with backgrounds in entrepreneurship and biomechanics. It finally dawned on him that other athletes were experiencing injuries that were detrimental to their sports careers. These professors sparked Kehlin to start a venture by utilizing his engineering background to develop a prototype.

Kehlin developed a wearable device that is supported through an app that can assess an athlete’s performance in regards to power and acceleration. This technology would be able to track trends that could be useful for athletes regarding their swings and sprints. Eventually Kehlin was able to connect with one of his engineering colleagues – co-founder Isis Ashford – to join him on this endeavor. She had also dealt with the same dilemma as a track athlete. They knew they had a special opportunity that they both could take advantage of by combining forces.

As Xplosion Tech grew, they were able to receive investments while also pitching in over 10 competitions. They were being recognized for their out-of-the-box idea. The ball started rolling once they transitioned as college students into adult life. As the company matured, it led the Miami Heat to contact Xplosion Tech. They had worries about one of their star NBA players who suffered constant injuries. Xplosion Tech jumped in to provide an assessment where they were able to identify key risk areas that aren’t noticeable on an MRI or X-Ray. By following their method, this player was able to rehab more effectively, and it allowed him to get back to his prime health. This was a huge accomplishment for Xplosion Tech to be recognized by an organization like the Miami Heat. However, this wasn’t Xplosion Tech’s biggest accomplishment. Kehlin and the team was awarded an NSF grant for $225,000 to make a second version of the device, where they would be able to reduce the setup time. Being awarded this grant was a tremendous win as it signifies the faith that organizations like NSF have in Kehlin and Xplosion Tech.

As time went on, there were some challenges that started to arise along the way. They had to partner with actual medical doctors and bio mechanics to work with them. It can be very challenging to find the best of the best in industries like this, especially to build a strategic business partnership. Kehlin had to overcome this obstacle by pitching their technology to them. By doing so, Kehlin developed an impressive pitch that allowed Xplosion Tech to win 10 pitch competitions, including the Fall 2018 Dallas Elevate My Business Challenge.

Even with how busy he is, Kehlin knows the importance of working on your business and not in it. This is what drew his attention to the EMBC program. It was crucial for Xplosion Tech to find tools and resources that were aimed at alleviating accounting and finance pressures that come with the business. Without tools like the business model canvas, Kehlin wouldn’t be able to identify crucial gaps. Even to this day, Kehlin still adjusts his canvas to experiment and evaluate opportunities because of how instrumental it is. This has led Kehlin to play around with some ideas for adding other potential revenue streams. He has also been scaling the company, bringing on a medical doctor, a bio mechanic, and some accounting staff.

This process has been great so far for Kehlin and his confidence is sky high. Five years from now Kehlin would like to see consistent revenue growth where they can transform into a zebra or phoenix company. The impact Kehlin wants to leave with Xplosion Tech is to unlock the human potential through the many different ideas that he has. We have no doubt that Xplosion Tech will reach these goals.

His key piece of advice that could benefit other entrepreneurs is to list and map out all possible ideas. Putting these thoughts on paper makes it easier to assess how you can move forward with them. Kehlin emphasizes that you try every single one until one works out for you. The motto that Xplosion Tech lives off of is “build, measure, and learn.” WIth that type of mantra there is no doubt your company will experience some wins, too. Please check out Xplosion Tech and the rest of their story on xplosionlive.com.

 

 

 

We Art Photography Inland Empire Alumni Spotlight

Summer 2018 Inland Empire EMBC Audience Choice Pitch Winner

 

Pitch Link: https://vimeo.com/289586924

 

Company Bio: We Art Photography provides professional photography services for families who want to capture intimate moments with their new born babies. Their clients are families with newborns and those who are expecting. We Art Photography has partnerships with hospitals with maternity services in California

When Angela Valderrama and her family came to the U.S. they were asked if they had any pictures of their family from home. Her husband has one photo of his family from 1914, which has been an important piece of their family history. After having experienced that moment, the family realized the significance of having family photos. This resonated with Angela, because every photo has a story that can be unpacked. It is also a story that can be told for the rest of time.

Angela and her family took the initiative to open up their own small business We Art Photography, which is dedicated to serving families. They accomplish their mission to capture the most intimate moments with newborn babies with the mother and father. We Art Photography opened up in 2014, but in 2015 they really solidified their business when Angela was able to secure a contract with a local hospital to take photos of families welcoming newborns. Not only that, but they are helping create long-lasting memories for families beyond newborn photos. Angela’s goal is to make sure families are able to have these delicate and precious memories.

Angela prides herself on the fact that she is able to serve a diverse community. She feels honored that families welcome her with open arms into these very private and intimate moments. A birth of a child is like a universal language that brings people together to celebrate life. Through their photography they are exposed to different cultures and ways of life. This has been a proud accomplishment for the Valderrama family to be living the American dream.

Originally Angela was working as an insurance broker working part time on her family business. Before joining the Inland EMBC, their business was barely turning a profit. Since Angela’s native language is Spanish, it was a challenge that she wanted to take on by joining the program. Since joining the EMBC, she has left her job as a broker to work full time with her husband. Now their revenues have grown from $50K annually to $93K in just the past year. This program forced Angela to get out of her comfort zone, which has allowed We Art Photography to thrive.

In order to get to this point, Angela has had to get over this language barrier. It was difficult at first to communicate with the hospitals she was trying to partner with. This led to Angela bringing someone on board to help translate and communicate with the hospitals to build a more effective business relationship. Angela’s husband takes the photos, but Angela contributes by creating the sets and props. A new creative marketing effort for We Art Photography has been to give gifts to new born mothers in the community. They have established credibility by going above and beyond for the families We Art Photography is serving.

The Challenge program was so effective for We Art Photography because they did not know how to construct a feasible business plan. Business would just come and go, because unfortunately their family was working in their business rather than working on it. The importance of building important relationships to use as potential resources has made all the difference. They have been very resourceful by outsourcing work to people they have met, which has led to growth. Angela says that what she learned from the Challenge program is how much untapped potential there is in the industry. The family has been able to think outside of the box by constructing creative solutions.

Angela now has a new level of confidence that makes her hopeful about the future. In the next five years, she hopes to expand and contract with over 10 hospitals. Once their revenues continue to grow, Angela is hopeful that they will be able to open up their own brick and mortar store. This would help alleviate some restrictions of what they can do in the hospitals. By having their own place, they can create more expansive sets to take more creative photos.

Angela’s word of advice for people who are looking to become an entrepreneur is that you must first fall in love with what you want to do. It doesn’t become work when you are passionate about what you are doing. We Art Photography’s journey is far from over. The are reaching for new heights. LIFT DE wishes the best of luck to Angela and her family. If you need family photos, be sure to check out We Art Photography.

 

Jump Finance Spotlight

Winter 2019 Austin Elevate My Business Challenge: 2nd Place Winner

Pitch Link: https://vimeo.com/329696489/f2f5bb63c7

Company Bio: Jump Finance partners with financial institutions to offer students in developing countries educational loans at fair, transparent rates, empowering them to complete their studies and pursue their dreams.

John William Meyer’s company truly started when his 22-year-old father decided to join the Peace Corps in 1967. Inspired by his father’s stories, John Willam followed in his footsteps and joined the Peace Corps to serve in Peru from 2010-2012 as a youth development volunteer. In this role, he trained youth health promoters, taught in the schools, and helped inspire local youth leaders in the community. While serving, John William observed the struggles that his students faced financially in pursuing their education. Many of his students would start attending college but were forced to drop out when they could no longer afford tuition and they had to get a job to support themselves and their family. With this problem in mind, John William realized that there was an opportunity to support these people by financing their post-secondary education. This is when Jump Finance was born.

In the past two years, John has been in the ideation stage of his business. He started to gain traction in 2019 when he won the City of Austin Fast Start Fintech competition. After a busy 2019 that included building their proprietary smartphone application and working to find financial and educational institution partners, the Jump Finance pilot program is set to launch later this year in The Gambia, West Africa (where John William’s father served as a Peace Corps volunteer).

Samba Bah, who works on John’s team for business development, was a professor at The Gambia University and knows firsthand how difficult tuition payments can be for students. Samba explains that a college tuition can be up to 80% of household income. It can be almost impossible for someone to be able to pay this up front, which leads to a number of students dropping out in order to find any job that can pay them to get by. This is where Jump Finance comes in to provide affordable loans.

Throughout the process of developing Jump Finance, John William has had meaningful accomplishments. One major milestone was winning the National Peace Corps Association Innovation For Good contest. Winning the approval from the Peace Corps meant a lot to him. John William is most proud of the team that works with him. Each and every member of the team brings something special that gets Jump Finance closer to achieving their mission.

While the team has made a lot of progress, it has not come without its fair share of challenges. The first was the difficulty of launching a pilot program in an area so far away. Progress can stall, especially if you are not on the same continent as your target market. To overcome this issue, it is crucial to partner with the right organizations in other countries. John William has had to navigate around many diverse business cultures to secure these partnerships. The next big initiative moving forward for Jump Finance is to finalize a deal with a financial institution to back up these loans.

John William credits his participation in the Elevate My Business Challenge as one of the major catalysts that has helped grow his company. The one-on-one coaching calls with LIFT have been invaluable to John. He was able to use these calls as a way to strategize and determine next steps to take. This is one of the many reasons why John William decided to join. Being able to leverage the coaches’ knowledge allowed John William to develop his business model. Since winning second place, John has seen major changes to his company.

Many companies fail because they don’t ask or seek for help, but in John William’s case he is more than happy to go find help when he believes things are slowing in the company. Within the next five years, Jump Finance hopes to be the industry leader across Africa in providing student loans. To accomplish this ambitious five-year plan, their biggest initiative will be to continue to make connections so they can expand across the continent. John William is hoping to develop a competitive advantage in the market by being more flexible compared to other lending institutions. Other players in the market seem to only deal with students that have a secure income and credit score. By being too risk averse, it is hard for them to make an impact in these regions. Jump Finance’s goal is to disrupt this status quo and help banks make loans to students they wouldn’t have otherwise made.

John William’s key piece of advice that he wanted to share with other entrepreneurs is “to not be afraid to ask for help.” He says that you should never turn down any meeting or connection with anyone. By listening to so many different voices, John William is able to expand his vision of what Jump Finance can be. Some people will be able to help you in ways that you never could imagine.

LIFT Development Enterprises is very proud of John William and all that he has accomplished so far. The social impact that he will have on thousands of students is astounding. We salute John William on his mission, and we are excited to see what the future holds for Jump Finance. Check out Jump Finance and learn more about their mission at jump-finance.com.

7 Secrets to Winning Your Next Pitch Competition: Part 4

At last, here we are to conclude our final part on the seven secrets to winning a pitch competition. Thank you for making it this far through the series. These final tips can help separate you from the rest. Stick around to the end so we can provide you with a quick snapshot of all the tips in one easy place to find.

6. Know Your Numbers:

Tip number 6 can make all the difference if you want judges to truly entertain your offer. This tip is to show off your numbers, including revenues, profits, number of customers reached, and much more. Companies that show a growth trend in their revenues year after year tend to get the most attention from judges because the proof shows that they are able to grow year after year. It is also important to illustrate how many consumers are in your potential target market, and what your numbers would look like if you captured a larger segment of that market.

Your financial projections will paint the picture of the health of your company, it will either show that you are onto something special, or you are on the cusp of dying off. However, anyone can put up flashy numbers, so you must show the judges how you arrived at those numbers. If you have multiple revenue streams, then it is also necessary to show the individual revenues of each stream and then the overall aggregate. If your numbers are not all that great at the moment, then you must be open and transparent with the judges so that you can tell them how you plan on growing your revenue if you had more capital.

7. Engage the Audience and Have Fun With Telling Your Story:

Last but certainly not least, the final tip is to allow your personality and individuality to shine through. If there are two companies with similar potential and risk, the judges will choose the company with the founder who is the most likable and exudes the most positive energy. People invest in people at the end of the day, and want to see that you have what it takes to win at the highest level. So many great companies pitch in front of investors with really strong business models, but they get overlooked because they were too bland and could not make the connection with the audience. You will still need a strong business model to win, but showing off your charismatic personality could be the difference between you winning and someone else. Please take the competition seriously, but do not be afraid to have some fun out there and engage with the crowd. It will take the nervousness away from you and it will allow you to show who you are as a founder.

Pitch competitions can seem very stressful and nerve wracking on the surface, but with a little guidance and some practice they really are not that bad. Here at LIFT we hope these tips can be of some use to you if you ever decide to choose a different route to get funded. It does not hurt to try, and win or lose the experience that you will gain from competing in a pitch competition can be enormous. By seeing what other entrepreneurs are doing you can potentially learn from them and even network to help each other out. The more you pitch the more likely you are to win.

For example one of the companies that went through our Challenge Program, “Elite Sweets,” had never pitched before. They ultimately ended up winning the audience choice award, but not only that, a few months later when they pitched again they ended up winning around $200,000 in prize money at a large pitch competition in San Francisco called WeWork. Their dedication and determination to improve on their pitch paid off and is the ultimate testament to why pitch competitions are one of the newest trends to get funded.

LIFT hopes that this four-part series will help you unlock your full potential of pitching. These secrets will not only help you with designing and performing a pitch, but it should help you take a step back and look at your business. If you think your business needs a little boost, then please be sure to check out our programs, which are designed to accelerate your business growth. If you loved the tips, and want an easier way of holding them, download our PDF graphic with a short synopsis of each key.

We wish you the best of luck if you decide to pitch. If you want to learn more about our programs and pitch competitions, check us out here.

7 Secrets to Winning Your Next Pitch Competition: Part 2

Welcome back! We hope you enjoyed part one of our four- part series on the seven secrets to winning a pitch competition. In this section we’ll dive deep into understanding your business economics, and tackling the idea of how to convey a compelling story.

2. Know your Business Economics:

The second tip is to make sure that you know your business inside and out. If you don’t, you’ll face the possibility of being called out and eaten alive by some of the judges. This one is crucial; because it separates the serious contenders from those who have not thought about all facets of their business. If you cannot answer questions about your sales cycle or customer acquisition strategy, judges will immediately overlook your company.

Before pitching it is essential to look at your business from all angles and understand your strategies for sales, marketing, operations, etc. If you do not have the answers currently in place, then you better be able to talk about what you would do if you had more capital to work with. You should know everyone’s role on your team, and where your capital is going in your business.

Being able to convince judges that they would get a major return on investment is the main objective of pitch competitions. Introduce your story, how you got here, and the results that you have gotten so far. If you show proper growth trajectory, then you must illustrate where your company could go with more capital to work with.

Try This: Look at commonly asked questions by judges at different pitch competitions so that you can get an idea of what types of questions to expect from judges.

3. Tell A Compelling Story About the Problem and Unique Solution

The third tip to winning a pitch competition is to keep your audience engaged and focused. In today’s world, more and more people have shorter attention spans, so it is absolutely necessary to get the audience on your side from the start.

We’ve seen countless pitches where it is really hard and distracting to focus on both the speaker and the slides behind them. The reason is because it is hard for people to read long slides while listening to what you are saying simultaneously. Your attention will be divided, so to avoid this you must have the audience focused on you. People may ask, well isn’t the point to have my information on the screen for people to read? No! You should be the guide for your pitch, so you want your presentation to be balanced in both what you are saying and what is on screen.

In order to achieve this equilibrium have slides that back up your points. The audience should be solely focused on what you are saying, but the slides will provide proof to back up what you are saying. Another thing to remember is to not have too much writing on a slide. Put your revenues/profits in big and bold writing, while having graphics that show market potential. Graphs, photos, videos, are always useful in getting a point across quickly. Just make sure to not over do it with your use of helpful tools, because it can take the focus away from you.

This concludes part two of our four-part series. Hopefully now you understand the opportunity you have right in front of you as a business owner. Please join us next time as the series looks at how to share your business success and how to make a sufficient ask from the panel of judges or investors.

7 Secrets to Winning Your Next Pitch Competition: Part 1

Pictured Above: Jorge Ruiz de Castilla from The Chip Merchant Pitching at LIFT’s Fall 2018 Bootcamp Pitch Day

Let’s face the facts: Pitch competitions are one of the newest and easiest ways to get your business funded with the right capital. However, there is a catch: You will likely have compete against numerous other businesses who are just as qualified as you are. The importance of standing out among everyone else is the key to winning most pitch competitions.

Most businesses decide that they want to get funding quickly through venture capital, but no one wants to just give away equity in their company. Other options include debt financing by going to a bank to get a line of credit, but banks are trying to avoid risks at all costs. By competing in a pitch competition hosted by either a non-profit, third party, or large corporation, you are able to win quick cash without having to sign any long — term debt contracts or give up anything in your company.

LIFT Development Enterprises, Inc. hosts numerous pitch competitions for small- to medium- sized businesses, and it has become clear that there is a certain recipe for being successful. We’ll walk you through the biggest takeaways and tips we’ve learned from winning pitches and the judges’ feedback.

Every pitch competition is different, so it is important to know the rules and guidelines before you pitch. But there are some universal tips that should work whether you are pitching for 45 seconds, 3 minutes, 5 minutes or 10 minutes. The path for winning is the same. Pitch competitions can vary in sizes, prizes and the amount of judges in the audience. All of these factors play a big part in how you approach your pitch. In this four — part series, we’ll take a look at the secrets behind a successful pitch.

(1) Prepare to Present to Your Audience

The first tip is probably the most important one for all pitch contestants whether you are a beginner or advanced. Be prepared! Preparation for the pitch event will show just how serious you are about winning. There are only a select few people in the world who can just wing a competition like this. There seems like there is a major correlation for winning companies that spent a lot of time on preparation, versus those who prepared little to none.

What does preparation exactly mean? Well first off, know your audience and alter your messaging to fit the crowd. Once you know who your audience is and who the judges are, it becomes so much easier to convey who you are and what your company does. You should be practicing your pitch constantly in front of friends and family to make sure you have it down. However, being prepared does not mean memorizing a script and being robotic. It should feel smooth and natural to talk about your company.

Try This: Video recording your pitch practices and turn off the volume so you just notice your body language and what your tendencies are like. Then just listen to your pitch recording and hear if everything sounds right.

We’re just scratching the surface about pitch competitions. We encourage you to subscribe to this four-part series. These keys will help unlock your full potential as a business owner. We’ll see you soon — in part two.

CarAudioCare Achieves 40% Revenue Increase in 2018

Robert Cruz, founder of CarAudioCare, joined the Spring 2018 EMBC after having a burning desire to learn how to position his business for growth and work ON his business, rather than simply IN it. He won the EMBC and ever since the program he has achieved and reached new heights in a very short amount of time. The biggest obstacle for Robert when establishing CarAudioCare was trying to grow on his own. Since completing the program, Robert has made key hires to help grow his company.

Prior to EMBC, Robert had some knowledge about business, but now he has gained insights and tools to implement growth strategies such as lowering the cost of goods, increasing  his number of customers, and selling more to his current clientele.  After grasping this newfound knowledge, Robert placed 1st at the EMBC Pitch Day and has applied changes to his business that exemplify accelerated growth. In addition to adding a bookkeeper to his team, he has hired a part-time technician who will be transitioning to full-time soon. CarAudioCare is on track to increase revenue by 15%.  Robert has been operating his business for 11 years and has talked to many people who have offered advice and tried to help him grow, but no one has compared to the team at LIFT Development Enterprises. EMBC helps small businesses by teaching them innovative methods and guiding them through their execution so they can reach the next level.

Robert attempted to request funding from many different banks, but unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in securing financing with them. Once participants graduate from EMBC, they undergo a 24-month period of frequent checkups from the support team to address any business needs. In Robert’s case, we helped develop his portfolio to be approved for alternative funding. With our team’s effort, Robert was approved for a loan from Accion to grow his business.

CarAudioCare increased its revenue in such a short amount of time, that it qualified to enter our advanced growth accelerator program: Founders Business Growth Bootcamp. Upon graduation of our Bootcamp program, Robert will have even more opportunities to receive mentorship and funding as he endeavors to expand to other regions of California.

With a commitment to work hard and a desire to grow, your company could be the next sustainable and successful small business like CarAudioCare.  No one can grow without a little bit of help. We hope that the Elevate My Business Challenge can be the spark that ignites a fire for your business growth!